Robots, and the dream of intelligent working robots have been with us for a very long time. As early as 1495, Leonardo da Vinci designed the first humanoid robot. It was designed to sit up, wave its arms, and move its head via a flexible neck. There were hundreds of other robots designed over the next five hundred years. In 2003 NASA used twin robots as Mars rovers. Robots were used in industry for activities like welding and painting automobiles. But until recently most robots were fairly simple, single application, machines. But it is only because of rapid advances in artificial intelligence that robots are advancing to the potential uses we now visualize. If robots can learn, improve and “think” in ways similar to humans, they can take on a whole new set of challenges. And, as part of this evolution, robots are also taking on uncannily human-like appearances. The future of robots now appears unlimited. A robot recently advanced one step closer to human status, when it was granted citizenship to Saudi Arabia.
Thinking back to an industry report I read, I recall a condition that still plagues many companies operating in today’s manufacturing markets: Change, Complexity, and Costs -- our "3-C's". These factors are so dynamic in ways and at speeds previously unequaled that I wonder how can our clients keep up with such challenges while achieving their goals and maintaining their advantages? Let alone exceeding those same goals and increasing their differentiating values?
Most of us use cloud services in our daily lives. Our email, music, financial software, and shopping are regularly becoming a browser experience or a data connected mobile app. This paradigm is now moving into for our automation platforms but what shape will it take as it pertains to Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
Back in the 70s when I graduated with an engineering degree, a large percentage of the new graduates went to work for manufacturing companies. A certain percentage went on for advanced degrees and ended up in research positions and academia, but much of the research was carried out by private companies building their own IP portfolios. The exception to this was civil, structural and architectural graduates who might end up working for private engineering and design firms.
We are a business that executes hundreds and hundreds of projects every year. These span the spectrum from simple to complex, urgent to critical, and small to large. As a vendor in industrial automation, we participate in these interactions as a supplier to prospective clients wishing to accomplish business goals. There are about as many ways to go about this as there are projects; however, there are certain parameters that yield more likely success more often. Let's look at them.
In a quote attributed to Warren Bennis over a decade ago, it was stated that “The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching any of the equipment.” Perhaps the future he visualized is very near.
It strikes me, in recent days, that some of the most heated rhetoric is aimed at several “threats” to our American essence. That is: Russian hacking, class envy, and (gasp!) Automation! They stand accused of challenging our very democratic foundations, tearing us apart as a people and turning human beings into commodities and turning us one against the other.
As we erase the mismarked year on our check book (scratch out 2016 and mark down 2017), it's time to reflect on where things are headed for the new year. Many believe it is going to be about “digitization" or adopting recent IT technology to maximize digital resources. Each market space has its own take on it.
We all heard the news last week that Rockwell Automation has purchased Maverick Technologies. Rockwell is a leading manufacturer in North America (The Control/ARC List ranks them fourth). Maverick Technologies is one of the leading systems integrators in the United States, and according to the press release, with revenue approaching 100 million dollars and over 300 employees. (Control Engineering System Integrator Giants List for 2015 lists Maverick as the 5th largest SI in the USA with revenue of 68M).
This past weekend we as a nation celebrated Labor Day. Americans observe Labor Day partly as a tribute to those who came before us in the workforce who established principles for equitable pay, safe work environments and reasonable conditions, and other improvements as new paradigms emerged.
Of course Labor Day is also the traditional beginning of fall and the end of summer so it’s a good time to take stock of things, and we look here at the role and value of "labor" which today is a lot different from where it was 100 years ago in part because of the efforts of those early pioneers of workers rights and the dawn of the new modern industrial age.